Series Preview: Cubs @ Nationals

By Matthew Jacobson

Following an impressive offensive outburst (at least in the first two games) against the Reds, the defending champion Chicago Cubs (man that still sounds weird) come to town for a four game series. The Cubs seem to still be in a bit of a championship hangover, as most of their roster from last year’s team returned, yet the results are not nearly what they were last year. The Cubs come into this first game of the series with a 38-37 record, good for second in the NL central behind the Milwaukee Brewers.

The Cubs are led by Anthony Rizzo, who has shown serious skill in the leadoff position, hitting several home runs since being moved to first in Joe Maddon’s batting order. Rizzo leads the Cubs with 71 hits, including 17 home runs. Rizzo’s teammate across the diamond Kris Bryant is right behind him with 16 home runs, and is getting on base at a .396 clip. Jon Jay has been a pleasant surprise for the Cubs, leading the team with a .319 batting average and .400 OBP. On the mound, the usual suspects lead the northsiders. Jake Arrieta, Jon Lester, Kyle Hendricks, and John Lackey are not having the type of year that their previous year’s stats would indicate, each with an ERA over 3.8 (Lester leads the pack with a 3.83). Their struggles on the mound have contributed to a disappointing season so far, but with the offensive talent mentioned above, it is easy to see why nobody is counting the Cubbies out quite yet.

The Nats lead the NL East by 9 games over the Atlanta Braves with a record of 45-30. They recently took 2 of 3 from the Reds, including a come from behind victory in the first game, and an 18-3 thrashing in game 2. Ryan Zimmerman has continued his impressive start to the season, batting .350 with 19 home runs and 59 RBI. Bryce Harper looks like the unanimous MVP he was 2 years ago, and Daniel Murphy continues to show that his 2015 postseason and last regular season was no fluke. Starting pitching has been stellar as well, with Max Scherzer garnering national attention for his impressive string of starts with double digit strikeouts, while Gio Gonzalez is quietly having one of his best seasons as a professional. Obviously, the bullpen has not been good, but has improved as of late, and Koda Glover and Sammy Solis seem to be ahead of schedule in terms of the recovery from injuries.

Game one of this important 4 game series is tonight. Eddie Butler faces Gio Gonzalez. First pitch slated for 7:05.

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